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The Government’s Science and Technology Framework is a welcome step and now must to be backed by action

The Department for Science Innovation and Technology has published a new Science and Technology Framework for the UK Government. The Framework, published on 6 March 2023 sets out a strategic view of how the Government will aim to support UK science and technology between now and 2030.  

This includes an analysis of what the Government sees as the key technologies vital to the UK’s social and economic future, sets out how the Government will aim to support the development and diffusion of these technologies and includes some metrics of success.  

How will this Science and Technology framework work in practice:  

The framework identifies five critical technologies going forward, to be reviewed yearly by the National Science and Technology Council:  

  1. Artificial Intelligence (AI) 
  2. Engineering Biology 
  3. Future Telecoms 
  4. Semiconductors 
  5. Quantum technologies 

The framework identifies four key themes to support the development and diffusion of these technologies: 

  1. Attracting the best talent  
  2. Building a skilled workforce for tomorrow's industries  
  3. Providing infrastructure and investment to support technologies to market 
  4. Encouraging a regulatory market that supports innovation 

To deliver the plan the Government bring froward targeted strategies with some funding. These include £250 million committed to funding ‘technology missions’ in AI, quantum and engineering biology to be set out by future strategies including the AI White Paper and Semiconductor Strategy. 

These technologies will also be encouraged through the nine ‘levers’ the framework sets out, with the government to develop a plan for each strand of the framework by Summer 2023. 

 Each of these sections include measures outlining how the Government will work with the private sector, academia and civil society in order to promote the UK’s strength in science and technology. Some of these are general, such as improving the STEM skills of the population, or more focused on specific crucial technologies themselves. Other examples include the commitment to raise public R&D funding to £20 billion by 2024-5, and the reform of the pensions regulatory charge cap. 

The nine levers are: 

  1. Signalling UK Strengths and Ambitions – Encouraging wider knowledge of the United Kingdom’s goals in science and current capabilities to promote shared current goals 
  2. Investment in Research and Development – Part of the government’s Science and Technology Superpower ambitions 
  3. Talent and Skills – Developing the UK’s existing talent base in skills and entrepreneurship 
  4. Financing Innovative Science and Technology Companies – Ensuring there is enough finance to grow large companies from startups 
  5. Procurement – Using the public sector’s buying power to create growth 
  6. International Opportunities – Reaping the benefits of international partnerships with states, industry and academia that allow the UK to lead the world 
  7. Access to Physical and Digital Infrastructure – Coordination of infrastructure to foster clusters of innovation and attract the talent needed to allow companies to scale 
  8. Regulation and Standards – Using the UK’s exit from the EU to establish pro-innovation regulation that leads the world 
  9. An Innovative Public Sector – creating a public sector that’s digitally-literate and willing to take risks to get returns 

As well as this a new institutional framework to deliver on the government’s priorities has also been outlined. This includes the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, and the  National Science and Technology Council. This council meets monthly and is chaired by the PM and co-chaired by the Secretary of State for DSIT. The Office for Science and Technology Strategy, as well as the national technology advisor, will also work on delivering this framework. DSIT is also committed, throughout the document, to cross-departmental work that will aid in the delivery of certain plans and reforms.  

techUK's view

techUK welcomes the framework and the recognition by government of the significant value the tech sector brings to the UK economy. 

It is good the government also recognise the great value brought to the UK as a whole by the critical technologies they have outlined in the framework.  The technologies  chosen are also key focuses of the work of techUK and support for  AI, quantum, semiconductor design and communications technologies will help the UK maintain its world-leading position in these technologies of the future. 

These measures must also be backed up though by strong financial commitment by the Chancellor in the upcoming March budget as well as ensuring that support for general innovation and R&D outside of the technologies the Government has selected is maintained.  

Despite several specific commitments regarding total public R&D funding and funding for those core sectors such as AI, there are questions regarding the financial commitments that will be required to make the framework a long-term success. The reduction of the R&D tax credit for small innovative companies in the autumn statement was a disappointing move and must also be addressed in the upcoming budget, with techUK offering ways for the government to rethink its R&D approach to best suit the modern tech sector. 

techUK will be working very closely with DSIT going forward to help fulfil the missions set out in the framework. Sign up to Policy Pulse to stay up-to-date with our techUK's views, and find our work on the key technologies below: 

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